When Mr. S. A. Couzens consented to compile a brief history of the Walthamstow Cricket Club to commemorate the Centenary of the Club, I knew that the resulting work would be informative, accurate and entertaining. My belief was fully justified as will be seen from the following, which has been reproduced from his manuscript with very little alteration or amendment.
Mr. Couzens has spent long and arduous hours in his researches which carried him far afield, and to him must go our everlasting gratitude for this labour of love.
With benefitting modesty Mr. Couzens has made but brief mention of his own contribution to the glories of the Club in the cricket field. How the man must have tussled with the Historian! Had someone else tackled this task the name of Sid Couzens must surely have earned a chapter to itself.
A record of 1843 wickets in the space of 18 seasons is truly remarkable in any circumstances. For a fast bowler in first-class club cricket, who gave of his best in every ball he bowled, it is simply magnificent. How it came about that he was not invited to play for the County will never be known.
I gladly subscribe my name to this appreciation of a great Club member, who, apart from being unsurpassed on the field of play, contributed so much in other directions to the success and continuance of our Club, which he undoubtedly loved and served so well.
R. H. WILLIAMS.
HISTORY OF THE
WALTHAMSTOW CRICKET &
LAWN TENNIS CLUB
It is generally accepted today that little good ever results from a war, but the Walthamstow Cricket Club owe their Centenary Celebrations this year to the threat of war. After an interval of nearly half a century following the general peace of 1814, the warlike attitude of France caused British citizens once more to arm for the protection of their country. The formation of volunteer corps was so rapid that in the course of a few months in 1859-60 a force of 119,000 was created. The first volunteer corps in Essex were formed at Romford and Ilford in 1859, and on the 8th November, 1860, members were sworn in as the Walthamstow "B" Company of the 2nd Essex Volunteer Rifle Corps; at the Infants National School in St. Mary's Churchyard, Walthamstow. William Houghton, the father of the late Gilbert Houghton, a Vice-President of the Walthamstow Cricket Club was a founder member of the Company. Cricket and football clubs were formed by the volunteers, but from the numerous reports of volunteer rifle matches, musters and functions during 1861, it is reasonable to assume that the little cricket played was confined to "scratch" matches on Church Common. However, by next year the cricket club was fully organised, for in the "Chelmsford Chronicle" of Friday, 27th June, 1862, there is a report of a match between Walthamstow and Upminster, played at Church Common on the 17th June. Upminster scored 54 and 80 and Walthamstow 36 and 18. (The Church Common Ground was sold by the Walthamstow Parish Council to the Great Eastern Railway Co. in May, 1869. The Railway Co. deposited £2,800 for the purchase of an alternative ground and the site of the present Recreation Ground between High Street and Selborne Road was purchased.) In the "Chelmsford Chronicle" of Friday, 1st August, 1862, the following report appears:
Upminster v. Walthamstow
"On the 22nd July the return match between the above Clubs was played at Upminster, and was concluded in favour of the Walthamstow on the first innings by 29 runs. It will be recollected that in the first match played, some five weeks since, the Upminster won by 80 runs, consequently in the present the gentlemen from West Essex considerably strengthened their team by bringing Messrs. Green, Greenhill and Mallett, with whose aid they succeeded in placing upon the telegraph at the fall of the last wicket a total of 101 runs. After dinner Upminster appeared at the wicket, and having run up a score of 72 runs, half of which were made by Grover, Abraham and Brewster, the last wicket was lowered. In the second innings of the ‘Walthamstow’, which closed for 76. Wright marked 24 including a fine leg hit for 6 and Green 18."
Score details which followed showed one of the opening batsmen for Walthamstow to be H. Read, who later became President of the Club in 1875.
The Mr. J. A. Abraham mentioned in the above report recorded that in a home match against Walthamstow a young man whom the visitors brought with them created a lasting impression on his mind. "He sent the ball repeatedly into my flower garden at the Mill, and into the road." This doughty hitter was C. E. Green, then lately of Uppingham School, and who later played a prominent part in the founding of the "Essex County Cricket Club". Mr. Abraham's recordings were given in the "Centenary" booklet issued by the Upminster Cricket Club in 1958.
C. E. Green who was undoubtedly the most famous cricketer ever to play for Walthamstow was a member until at least 1866. The "Stratford Times" and "South Essex Gazette' of Saturday, 6th October, 1866, gives details of the athletic sports held by the Walthamstow Cricket Club on Saturday, September 29th, to conclude a very successful season. Charlie Green is shown as the winner of the 100 yards, high jump, kick football, throw cricket ball (103 yards), long jump (18' 9") and hurdle race. Sir Pelham Warner in his book "Lords" says that Green was the life and soul of Essex cricket and a great Master of Hounds. Sir Pelham endorses the recordings of Mr. Abraham when he says that Green was a fine hitter and he says Green's finest innings was perhaps his one of 51 for the M.C.C. v. Yorkshire at Lords in 1870 when both Green and W. G. Grace (66) were badly battered about the body by Freeman and Emmett on a very rough wicket. C. E. Green was the first captain of the Essex County Cricket Club at the Leyton County Ground and was later made President of the Essex County Cricket Club and in 1905 elected President of the M.C.C.
In 1865 the Walthamstow Cricket Club moved to its new ground in Green Leaf Lane (now Hoe Street) which is today the site of Hatherley Road. The "Stratford Times" and "South Essex Gazette" gives many reports of Walthamstow matches during this season including games with Edmonton and Ilford Amateurs. The club captain at the time was P. J. G. Rouquette who resided at "Elm House", Marsh Street (now High Street), part of which for many years in more recent times was the home of the Walthamstow Conservative Club. Rouquette’s main interest was in the associated Walthamstow Football Club (Rugby) which in the Victoria History of the County of Essex is quoted as "the most historic, as well as the best in the point of view of active strength". Rouquette, an old Rugbeian, is described as a forward of the heavy type which prevailed in his era and as the moving spirit of the Club for a long time. He had three younger brothers who in turn all took up the captaincy of the cricket and football clubs. Members of the Rouquette family are reported as playing for the Club up to 1879. The high standing of the football side of the Club can be gauged from the fixture lists which disclose that matches were played with St. Bart's Hospital, West Kent, St. Thomas's Hospital, Clevedon, St. George's Hospital, Guys Hospital, R.M.A. Woolwich, Wasps, Ravenscourt Park, Marlborough Nomads, Richmond, Harlequins, London Scottish and Cambridge University. The Cricket fixture list was not so impressive but the same players participated in both sections.
The Walthamstow Cricket and Football Clubs moved to their St. James's Street ground in 1873. This ground was situated opposite the then headquarters of the Club, "The Coach & Horses Tavern", and is now the site of Station Road and The Crescent. The village fire appliance was at the side of the public house and opposite a five bar gate and stile opened on to a path across the cricket field to Lea Bridge. The "Stratford Times" of Wednesday, 1st October, 1873, gives details of the usual athletic sports held to mark the termination of the cricket season. On this occasion the band of the Honourable Artillery Company was in attendance. The committee and competitors at this time included members of the Borwick family of baking powder fame.
Cricket fixtures in 1876 and 1877 included matches with local clubs Leytonstone, Clapton, Woodford, Enfield and Brentwood School and of all the matches played in 1877, Walthamstow won 14, drew 5 and lost 11. The Club were now running 1st and 2nd XI’s. The "Walthamstow & Leyton Guardian" of the 13th May, 1876, gives the following picturesque account of the Club's sports which were now held in the spring of each year:
Walthamstow Cricket & Football Club's Athletic Sports
"The spring meeting of these Clubs was held under favourable circumstances in the Club's Cricket Field, St. James's Street, Walthamstow, on Saturday, 6th May. No expense was spared to make the day's amusement all that could be desired. The prizes consisted of handsome cups, goblets and tankard, with two football caps of superior make, which were presented to Messrs. Echalaz and Ashmore. The Band of the 1st City of London Engineers (by permission of Lieut.-Col. Stillwell) were in attendance. Judges were C. Webb and P. J. G. Rouquette."
The laws of cricket at this time did not allow for declarations and one can appreciate the jolly time enjoyed by the Clapton players on Saturday, 21st July, 1877, when their home match with Walthamstow resulted as follows :-Walthamstow 200-6. Clapton did not bat. Walthamstow retaining possession of the wickets till call of time.
The following comment from the "Stratford Express" of Saturday, 21st June, 1879, indicates the Club's standing at the time: "The annual sports in connection with the Walthamstow Cricket & Football Clubs came off on Saturday, 14th June, on the Club's ground St. James's Street. As usual there was quite an aristocratic gathering, the elite of the neighbourhood being present." The Gazetteer & Directory of the County of Essex (1863) describes Walthamstow as follows:- "Walthamstow, one of the largest and handsomest sub-villages near the metropolis, is delightfully situated on the eastern side of the vale of the River Lea, within the southern verge of Epping Forest. It contains many handsome villas, with tasteful pleasure grounds, mostly occupied by merchants and others, who have their places of business in London:"
Impending development compelled the Club to vacate its St. James's Street Ground at the end of the 1882 season and this move foreshadowed a decline in the cricket section. The Football Club obtained the use of the Cassiobury House Ground off Coppermill Lame but the ground was already shared for cricket by Auburne Cricket Club and Elms Cricket Club. The move, however, had a great bearing on the future for it brought the Walthamstow players into closer contact with the Auburne Cricket Club founded by Major Guppy in 1878.
The Club's link with the Volunteer Rifle Corps was by now almost non-existent and at the end of the 1884 season efforts were made to re-organize the cricket section under the presidency of Mr. J. C. Rose, of Longfield Lodge, who allowed the Club to have the use of his Farm Ground off Blackhorse Lane for the next two seasons. The fixture list at this time included Clapton, Tottenham, Stamford Hill and Rochford Hundred which is now Southend-onSea, and the Club included amongst its patrons Mr. John Holmes, M.P.
The Walthamstow Football Club were now an entirely separate organization; there are reports of them playing Cambridge University on Saturday, llth November, 1884, but no further details of their progress have come to light. The advance of Association Football in Essex caused the decline of the Rugby game which was almost abandoned throughout East Anglia by 1890. It is assumed that the former powerful Walthamstow Club was one of the victims.
By an odd chance it was also at the end of the 1884 season that Major Guppy's Auburne Cricket Club amalgamated with the fashionable Mayfield Cricket Club of Clapton of which earliest available records report matches played in 1870. The amalgamated Club was known as Mayfield Auburne and enjoyed the use of the Cassiobury House Ground for the 1885 and 1886 seasons under the captaincy of Josiah Gunton, a City Alderman, who but for his premature death would probably have become a Lord Mayor of London.
At the end of the 1886 season the Walthamstow Cricket Club had to vacate its Rose’s Farm Ground in favour of the developers and at this crisis in the Club's affairs amalgamation was achieved with the Mayfield Auburne Club. The Walthamstow "Guardian" of Saturday, 22nd October, 1887, reports the A.G.M. of the revitalized Walthamstow Cricket Club at which the treasurer, Major John Guppy, gave the following details:- "In December, 1886, the Club had secured the lease for seven years of a private field, belonging to Mr. Courtenay Warner, in Blackhorse Lane and during the winter they had spent over £100 in preparing the ground for cricket and lawn tennis. A handsome pavilion had also been erected on the field. There were 64 gentlemen and 22 ladies at present on the books and two cricket matches would be arranged for every Saturday next season." This new ground was situated opposite Longfield Avenue in Blackhorse Lane (now Blackhorse Road) and is at present the site of Cornwallis Road. The Walthamstow Cricket Club, under the captaincy of Josiah Gunton, now enjoyed a period of increasing prosperity. The Walthamstow "Guardian" of Saturday, 14th December, 1889, reports a most successful annual dinner at the Holborn Restaurant and by 1894 the Club was running tours for 1st and 2nd XI's.
Some local cricketers, however, were not happy about this state of affairs for in the Walthamstow "Guardian" of Friday, 28th April, 1893, there is the following comment:-"There is a general feeling amongst local cricketers that the team bearing the name of the parish should be composed of local players. Unfortunately, the Walthamstow Cricket Club consists almost entirely of Stoke Newington and Clapton men. The Elmsdale Cricket Club are (in every way) more deserving of this honour…" The Walthamstow "Guardian" of Friday, 3rd August, 1894, reports :-"By the way, I hear that next season it is intended to change the name of the Walthamstow Tradesmen Cricket Club (Thursdays only) to that of "Walthamstow Town" and to play Saturday matches. This is certainly a step in the right direction, as we certainly need a representative club." Trial matches were played in September followed by the announcement that the newly formed Walthamstow Town Cricket Club (Elmsdale and Walthamstow Tradesmen joining forces) had secured the old Walthamstow Ground at the back of Cassiobury House in Coppermill Lane. The Walthamstow Town Club had its first season in 1895 running one Thursday and two Saturday XI's. C. J. Kortright (the Essex demon bowler) was their vice-captain. For a time they enjoyed considerable playing success and had 1st and 2nd XI matches with Walthamstow Cricket Club from 1896 to 1899 but "owing to lack of interest" the Walthamstow Town Cricket Club was wound up at a meeting presided over by F. Challis on Thursday, 17th April, 1902. Their then leading players, H. Pascoe and T. H. Braithwaite, joined Buckhurst Hill Cricket Club.
Undismayed by the ballyhoo about the Walthamstow Town Club, the Walthamstow Cricket Club in 1895 moved to its new Church Hill Ground known as "Rectory Field" alias "Vicarage Field" which is now the site of the Girls' County High School. Once again the demands of the builder had necessitated a move. The Club strengthened its Vice-Presidents in 1896 by the inclusion of Mr. E. Widdrington Byrne, Q.C., M.P., and now included Cheshunt, Edmonton, Ilford, Finchley, South Woodford, Woking, Enfield, Brighton Brunswick and Newhaven amongst its fixtures. In 1897 there were over 100 cricket and tennis members and the financial position was reported as sound. The annual dinner was held at the Trocadero Restaurant on Saturday, 18th December. In 1898 the Club ran a 1st XI Kent tour and a 2nd XI Sussex tour in addition to a full fixture list for both XI's. The report of the Kent tour of 1901 lets us into the secret of the popularity of the tours for the closing match was played at the seat of Lord Harris, "Belmont," near Faversham, and "the game was the more pleasant owing to the cordial hospitality of Lord and Lady Harris." Another match was played at the seat of the Earl of Guildford at Waldershare Park. The Earl failed to score.
The Club at this time was a real power in cricket and in Charlie Cattell they had one of the finest of club batsmen. In the season of 1905 Cattell made five successive centuries during the tour and was the first man in the history of the Club to complete a 1000 runs in a 1st XI season. His final figures were:- inns. 19, not out l, highest score 138, total runs 1054, avge. 58-5. It was during this season's tour that he and Harold Wilson put on 245 for the first wicket against Hastings Rovers at the Central Ground, Hastings; a Club record that still stands today.
The successful run at Church Hill was terminated at the end of the 1909 season when the ground was acquired by the Essex Education Committee and in 1910 the Club moved to its present home at Buck Walk. The new ground was opened on Saturday, 14th May, and the Walthamstow 1st XI was badly beaten by East Finchley. There was a record influx of new members, the membership increasing from 110 to 150. To cope with this increase three new tennis courts were laid for the following season, bringing the total of courts to nine. The Old Monovians Football & Hockey Clubs were to use the ground during the winter months. In 1913 the Club for the first time fielded 1st, 2nd and 3rd XI's and it was announced that a full fixture list for three elevens had been arranged for the next season.
Following the outbreak of war in 1914 the ground was used for a few odd matches during 1915 and 1916 but after this it was used for the training of the local Volunteers.
The Club's first match after the War was played at Blackhorse Lane on 17th May, 1919, against the Gnome & Le Rhone Engine Co. Cricket Club, at whose hands they suffered a heavy defeat. Nine members of the team had just returned from four years in France and were consequently very short of practice. The Club, however, were congratulated upon being able to re-open after such a long period of inactivity.
The Club were challenged for supremacy during this period by the Walthamstow Wanderers Cricket Club whose members included Frank Hinde (joined Walthamstow in 1928) and George Toll (joined Walthamstow in 1926) but the Wanderers eventually fell by the wayside despite enjoying greater publicity for a number of seasons.
In 1924 the two dilapidated sheds which had served as dressing rooms at the Buck Walk Ground were replaced by a new pavilion. This pavilion was financed by 10s. shares repayable at a premium of 6d. for each year the shares were held.
Committee members canvassed by personal calls with rather discouraging results but eventually the money was raised (total cost £642). The reason for the low cost was the fact that almost all the labour was supplied free by Club members. An Entertainments Committee was formed to raise money to repay the capital that had been borrowed. It meant raising about £200 a year out of Dances, Sweepstakes, etc., but thanks mainly to the great efforts of Charles Hurst the debt was almost cleared within five years. Incorporated into the capital charges repaid was the original £100 odd lent to the Club at the time of the move from Church Hill in 1910.
At the Second Annual Supper held in the new pavilion in 1925 Jimmy Johns, the General Secretary, informed the 140 persons present that every endeavour should be made to purchase the Buck Walk Ground in order to ensure the future of the Club.
From the playing point of view 1924 was a red letter year for the Club, for this was the first season for Len Snaith. Snaith was still at the Sir George Monoux Grammar School when he played his first game for the Club and scored 108 not out for the third eleven against South Woodford on June 21st. The following week he scored 103 not out for the second eleven against Hale End and completed his first season by heading the second eleven batting with an average of 41-57. During the home cricket week the Derelicts turned up one short; Snaith made the number up and scored 100 against the Club XI which included 1st team bowlers. All in all a pretty fair first season. The next year, 1925, Snaith was promoted to the 1st XI and he headed the batting with an aggregate of 854 runs (the highest total since Cattell's 1054 in 1905) for an average of 42-7. The prowess of Walthamstow's youthful protégé obviously reached the ears of the County Club for when the Club and Ground XI visited Walthamstow on Monday, 19th July, 1926, it was under the captaincy of the redoubtable J. W. H. T. Douglas. In this match Snaith scored 103 runs out of a Walthamstow total of 286 and the Club and Ground replied with 127 for 3 wickets before rain stopped play. It is said that after the game our loquacious Len pointed out to Johnny where he had gone wrong, but perhaps Douglas did not appreciate the words of wisdom, for he seemed to lose all future interest in Snaith who was never asked to play for any County XI. Snaith headed the 1st XI batting averages on no fewer than eleven occasions before leaving in 1946 to join Leigh-on-Sea. In the 1933 season he became only the second player in the Club's history to score a 1000 runs in a first eleven season, but it took him 26 innings (6 not out) against Cattell's 19 innings (1 not out) in 1905.
In 1929, Jimmy Johns' campaign for the Club to purchase the Buck Walk Ground bore fruit and The Walthamstow Cricket & Lawn Tennis Club Ltd. became the owners of the property. The ground had been the property of the Mills Trust and Miss Mills who only held a life interest in the estate desired that the ground should be retained as a sports field and had invited negotiations with this end in view. This purchase again put a tremendous burden on the Committee Members who had to find purchasers for the shares issued to finance the deal. There were many anxious moments and the Club must be ever grateful for the strong financial support given by the late Mr. H. W. Dongray (Club President from 1934 to 1961) and to the principal negotiator Charles Hurst (Club Chairman 1934 to 1947).
Walthamstow maintained their position as one of the strongest clubs north of the Thames and their already strong batting was reinforced in 1934 by the arrival of M. R. J. Wood who headed the first eleven batting averages in five out of his first six seasons with the Club. Monty made a name for himself by his powerful hitting, and stories are told on many grounds, particularly Ilford, about his prowess. His highest aggregate for a 1st XI season was in 1935 when he scored 971 runs in 24 innings.
During the Second World War the Club carried on its activities and provided recreation for its members when they were on leave from the Forces and maintained the ground in anticipation of the cessation of hostilities and the resumption of peacetime cricket. During the War the ground suffered severe damage from five bombs and only extensive internal strutting and "will power" kept the pavilion standing. The commencement of the 1942 season saw the members alternating between net practice and filling in bomb craters. The Club will always be indebted to those few stalwarts, so ably led by the late Clifford Watkins, who did so much to ensure the continuance of cricket. At this period Walthamstow were probably unique among cricket clubs in having a lady secretary, Miss Amy Tomlin (now Mrs. Starr).
The Club now had its bowling strength reinforced for Sid Couzens joined in 1940 and Bert Silber in 1941. These are the only two bowlers in the Club's history to have taken 1000 wickets for the Club; Couzens took 1843 wickets in his 18 seasons and Silber took 1078 wickets in 19 seasons.
With the settlement of its War Damage Claim the Club renewed its pavilion (not before time, some said) in 1954 and in 1955 as a result of the sale of a small portion of the ground the Club were enabled to redeem the mortgage undertaken in 1929. The strong position the Club now enjoys is due entirely to the efforts of a long succession of hard working officials and committee members; one of their most notable achievements being in 1951 the final warding off of the threat of compulsory acquisition of the Buck Walk Ground.
In 1957 a Walthamstow player, Alan Penman, took all ten wickets in a match between the 2nd XI and Maurice. This was the first time in the Club's long history that such a feat had been performed, yet within two years Dennis Sayers took all ten for the 1st XI in a match with Old Stationers!
The Club is now under the Presidency of Bob Williams (Chairman 1953 to present day) who did such great work along with Charles Hurst in raising funds during our most difficult times.
In this respect the Club is also indebted to Mr. Arthur Sedgwick, one of its Vice-Presidents, who has, in latter years been instrumental in the visits of many star-studded elevens visiting the ground.
Having reached this Milestone in. its History, the Club looks forward to steady expansion, building with confidence on now well established traditions inspired by the example of that large band of dedicated people who, over the years, have played their parts both on and off the field to the greater glory of the Walthamstow Club.
In compiling these details of the history of the Walthamstow Cricket Club I examined all copies of the Walthamstow "Guardian" From 1940 back to the first issue of the 6th May, 1876. I then obtained permission to examine the files of the "Stratford Times" and the "Stratford Express" back to the earliest available copies of 1865. The mention of Walthamstow Cricket Club in the Upminster C.C. "Centenary" booklet of 1958 led me to examine the files of the "Essex Weekly News" (founded 1862), and the "Essex Chronicle" which was founded in 1764; then known as the "Chelmsford Chronicle". I then made a careful check of all relative books in (lie Walthamstow, Chelmsford and Southend Libraries. The task was most rewarding and was completed over a period of three years. I shall be ever grateful for the co-operation given to me by the staff at the Walthamstow Reference Library, for the kindness of the Editor of the "Stratford Express" in allowing me to have access to all his files, and to the Editor of the "Essex Chronicle" who placed a private room at my disposal for the examination of the wonderfully preserved files of one of the country's oldest newspapers.
I am also indebted to the late Harry Dongray and the Widow of the late Harold Wilson for their kindness and interest, in providing me with many invaluable press cuttings. I must also acknowledge the help given to me by the former Club Chairman, (Charles Hurst, who presented the Club with his old fixture cards and mementoes which was a source of encouragement in the early days of my task. My grateful thanks to all those other members and former members of the Club who also assisted me.
S. A. C.